My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Montego Bay Freezone Liberalized as LIME's Jamaica DigiPort International gives up its Monopoly - Call Centers Age of Empire as Mandeville Beckons

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Montego Bay Freezone Liberalized as LIME's Jamaica DigiPort International gives up its Monopoly - Call Centers Age of Empire as Mandeville Beckons

“This development marks the last phase of the liberalization of the telecommunications industry, which was started in 1999.”

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell on Thursday June 7 2012 at JDI (Jamaica Digiport International)

Telecom Provider LIME has made yet another gesture of goodwill again. This time it’s the giving up of its exclusive fifteen (15) year lease on the Montego Bay Freezone, which is managed by JDI (Jamaica Digiport International) as stated in the article “Lime yields monopoly”, published Friday, June 08, 2012 By Paul Rodgers Business Editor, The Jamaica Observer and “MoBay Free Zone to be expanded; LIME to give up monopoly”, published Friday June 8, 2012, The Jamaica Observer.

The ceremony attended by representatives from FLOW, LIME and Minister of Science, Technology Energy and Mining Philip Paulwell,  took place at a Press Conference held on Thursday June 7th 2012AD at the JDI located within the Montego Bay Free Zone.

This ceremony saw the relinquishing of its two (2) exclusive fifteen (15) year Licenses that allowed the JDI to control and set up Freezone in Montego Bay and elsewhere namely:

1.      Free Trade Zone Carrier Licence (2000)
2.      Free Trade Zone Service Provider Licence (2000)

These license are held by the JDI, an arm of C&W (Cable and Wireless) Jamaica Limited now LIME to allow for competition in the Freezone as stated in the article “BUSINESS: Telecoms now free to compete in free zones”, published 2012-06-07 16:28:13, Go-Jamaica.

A fairly easy decision to relinquish their licenses three (3) years before 2015AD, the year that the licensees were slated to expire, being as the JDI barely contributed to their financial bottom-line or even to GOJ tax revenues. There are fourteen (14) FDI (Foreign Direct Inventors) hosted in the Montego Bay Freezone which is jam-packed to capacity and bursting at the seams at over 97% occupancy.

Amazingly it only contributes a mere US$102 million ($8.9 billion) in foreign exchange earnings to the GOJ and is a drop in the bucket compared to LIME’s US$20 billion in after-tax earnings for 2011AD, based on their Audited and published Financial statements.  The JDI’s business is mainly to support Call Centers:

1.      Dedicated/Leased Lines
2.      MetroNet Internet Service
3.      International Direct Dial
4.      World Service Enhanced Toll Free
5.      Standard Toll Free 800/877/888
6.      Dual Line
7.      World International Toll Free Service

Aside from the JDI other businesses, mainly Call Centers, are hosted within the confines of the Montego Bay Freezone. One of these is the famous computer Programming institute CIT (Caribbean Institute of Technology) found in 1999, the year of Telecom Sector Liberalization.

ACS-Xerox, a Call Center Operation which has locations in Portmore and New Port West at which I worked as indicated in my blog article entitled “Digicel cuts 120 Call Center Jobs - Fullgram Solutions to benefit as Antonio Graham speaks of an AEPP future by the Ocean”, also has a location hosted within the Montego Bay Freezone.

It’s also the location of one of LIME’s three (3) Earth Stations, the other two (2) being in Chalmers Avenue, Molynes Road and Grants Pen on the way towards St. Thomas.

The location of these Earth Stations is  ideal as it’s free from Terrestrial Radio Noise Interference, albeit the services of the Earth Stations re rarely use as there is now an increasing reliance on smaller VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminals) as well as UnderSea Fiber Optic Cables as described I Kelroy’s my Geezam Blog article entitled  Undersea Cables keep the Caribbean connected to the World Wide Web

This high level of Telecom Support Structure keep Jamaica connected and thus makes us perfect for ICT Companies to come here set up shop, such as International Call Centers, mainly owned by FDI (Foreign Direct Investors)!

For those who are confused, a Freezone is an area designated via a BTA (Bilateral Trade Agreement) or MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) as being Foreign Soil i.e. companies that operate in a Free zone act as if they were in their original country, with the laws of that country applying and not those of the host country. In essence when you enter the Montego Bay Freezone, you are in the United Kingdom, the host country for Telecom Provider LIME parent company CWC (Cable and Wireless Worldwide) or whichever  country the Call Center Operator chooses.

One of those representatives Lime's Chairman, Christopher Dehring, effectively laid out the Red Carpet for competition, against which he held no grudges while cribbing from a speech by former CEO of General Motors Charles Irwin Wilson (July 18, 1890 – September 26, 1961), quote:  “This partnership with the Government for the development of the ICT and telecoms services signals our total embrace of competition in the sector. We, at LIME, know that our community is not abstract to us and what benefits Jamaica benefits us.”

Minister Phillip Paulwell was more to the point as to the intentions of the Ministry were with regards to the Montego Bay Freeport: Business expansion of the ICT Sector. In his speech he explained this desire, quote:  “There is no reason Jamaica should not be the centre of all telecommunications and business-related activities in the region. We are going to claim back that near source market (North America) and we all have to pool resources together, all of us, to achieve that”.

ICT, by the way is a buzzword for Call Centers. Now that the Montego Bay Freezone, the last vestige of the monopoly of the once mighty and powerful C&W Jamaica Limited has been removed, the intention is now clear to grow the ICT Sector with the following plans now on the table:

1.      Expansion of the Freezone by some 50,000 square feet to increase space for other investors to set up shop in the Freezone
2.      Upgrade of the facilities within the Freezone to accommodate these other investors in the ICT coming to Jamaica as hinted in my blog article entitled “Russians see potential in Ethanol Fuel Plant in Jamaica – From Russia With Love for sorghum”.
3.      Expansion of the Freezone areas into other places that have high unemployment and high literacy skills, such as Mandeville, Manchester

This as expressed clearly by Minister Phillip Paulwell, quote: “Space is our greatest problem. Montego Bay is bursting at its seams and we have to create thousands of office spaces. If you see lands owned by the Government, we are prepared to work with you in a partnership because it makes no sense to have idle lands when we could collectively expand our space capacity and create jobs for our people.”

Already in Montego Bay, a US Based company Convergyns has intentions to set up shop permanently in Jamaica, already home to several Call Centers across the island as explained in my blog article entitled “Convergyns and Aegis Communications Call Centers Coming – FDI powered Call Center Renaissance in Jamaica thanks to our Good English”.

And like Convergyns, there is a desire to expand, as there is a need for not only Land space but cheap electricity, which is coming soon thanks to US-based Green Energy RG and Canadian-based Solarmon Energy Corp as stated in my blog article entitled “Solamon Energy Corp & Green RG invest in Jamaica's Alternative Energy Future - Let the Cheaper Energy Hunger Games for Latin America Begin” and my Geezam Blog article entitled  Solamon Energy Corporation to build Caribbean’s Largest Solar Plant – Jamaica to get a Green Energy Boost”.

Call Centers consume a phenomenal amount of power akin to Data Centers, mainly to power their Servers and Air Conditioning as surmised in my blog article entitled “Dr. Taylor's states Global Warming increasing Jamaica's Energy Bill - Vybz Kartel's Summertime Soylent Green” .

I remember when I was still a student at UTECH (University of Technology) doing my Diploma in Electronics and Telecoms, our Lecturer, Dr. Trevor Appleton too the Electronics Group on a Electronics field trip in Third Year to visit the JDI.

Back then, it was sponsored by my Telecoms Lecturer, Dr. Trevor Appleton aka Mr. 100 Overproof, a very colourful character who taught us the course at UTECH that had very little support, due to the fact that the field was not taking on a lot of people.

But the trip comes back to mind, as it was in the year 1999 that the Telecom Sector was liberalized.

The Details are still fresh in my mind. A new Telecommunications Act of 2000 with the Telecom Sector fully liberalized, breaking the back of C&W Jamaica Limited forty seven (47) year that had guaranteed the Telecom Provider 25% profits from the GOJ (Government of Jamaica) even in years that they weren’t making any. Never did I imagine I’d end up working at C&W Jamaica for three years (2001 to 2004) as a Network Maintenance Technician.

Telecom Provider Mossel was also coming to Jamaica in that year to set up shop on the island as Jamaica’s First Mobile Telecom Operator . They would later change their name to Digicel as the uptake of their Mobile phones surpassed all expectations in 2002 when their projected sale of 100,000 phones for a year was achieved in three (3) months .

Since then it’s been a series of on and off legal battles between C&W Jamaica Limited and Digicel Jamaica, with Digicel scoring victories in the Public’s minds even as they lost legal battles to their competitor.

It has now calmed down a bit, with the latest scuffle involving the legality of the swap that gave Digicel Jamaica the assets of CLARO Jamaica, which the FTC (Fair Trading Commission) can now contest as explained in my blog article entitled “Digicel to shut down CLARO's Voice Network in HSDPA+ Push - The Louisiana Purchase of Spectrum” . More on that soon….

But these ongoing battles aside, the future expansion of the lucrative Call Center Business looks bright as BPO’s (Business Process Outsourcing) are now entering a Golden Age of Empire in this final act that fully liberalizes the Jamaican Telecom Sector!


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